Baseball has long been a family affair. As early as the brotherly love of the DiMaggios to the back-to-back home run prowess of the Griffeys, baseball DNA is prevalent in every era. Already this season, for example, we looked at Luke Dykstra, the Son of Nails (Lenny of course), and how that hard-nosed, gritty approach to the game seemed to have been passed down through the bloodlines.
Today’s minor leagues are full of the second comings of their fathers before them. One may have just inherited his pop’s legendary big swing.
Vladdy. Vlad the Impaler. Vladimir Guerrero went by many names over his 16-year career, but he was always known for that big swing. He is labeled by many as the best bad-ball hitter of all time, as there wasn’t a pitch the Vlad wouldn’t put his bat on, whether it was up, in, down, out or sometimes over his head. He always made good contact, never striking out more than 14 percent of the time in any one of his 16 big league seasons. His final numbers — .318/.379/.553 with 2,590 hits and 449 home runs, including his unbelievable 2004 MVP campaign — have left him ever so slightly on the wrong side of the Hall of Fame debate for the past few years, though by no means a long-shot to be inducted.
While his legacy may be his swing, or the fact that he played on two teams who’s names don’t even exist anymore (the Montreal Expos and the Anaheim Angels), Vlad, Jr. is doing his part to continue the family name. Coming off a very impressive 2016 rookie campaign, the sky may be the limit for the Little Impaler.
Like his father before him, Vlad Guerrero, Jr. is beginning his career north of the border. The Toronto Blue Jays were seemingly all in on the young Dominican, whom many believed was the best bat in the 2015 International free agent market. They traded away two prospects to increase their international bonus pool and penned Vlad, Jr. in July of 2015 for a whopping $3.9 million signing bonus at the young age of 16.
He is smaller than his father, standing at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, and some feel he may be a bit less athletic, lacking the speed that made his father a perennial 30/30 threat. The power is certainly there, however, and now just 17 years old, who’s to say what can develop. His swing is big, and he seems to have an innate ability to put the bat on any ball anywhere in the strike zone.
His 2016 professional debut was impressive, and as previously mentioned, even more astonishing when you take into consideration that he isn’t even old enough to drive in some of the United States. Playing at Rookie level in the Appy League for the Bluefield Blue Jays, Guerrero, Jr. slashed .271/.359/.449, posting an .808 OPS. He raked eight home runs to go along with 12 doubles and was surprisingly very good on the base paths, stealing 15 of 20 attempts, although that could be equally indicative of the catching talent he was playing against. Still, it seems that if he isn’t as quick as Vlad, Sr. on his feet, he is at least as smart in picking his chances.
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